The Second Coming As Government Entitlement
by Scott Cattanach
Here is what Jerry Falwell said on the 700 Club [about the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01]: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’” Pat Robertson concurred: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government.”
— Andrew Sullivan, 9/14/01
Actually, the argument can be made (and will be here) that Falwell and Robertson are to blame, due to their overriding support of Israel for their own religious reasons. After all, without the Book of Revelation, would Israel mean more to the United States than, say, Costa Rica? According to Joseph Sobran, the headline of the Washington Times on the morning of the attacks read “Bush ‘Tilt’ to Israel Provokes Arab World” (this was published before the planes hit). Even the War Party admits our foreign policy was a factor in the attacks. George Will writes:
Americans … are targets because of their virtues — principally democracy, and loyalty to those nations that, like Israel, are embattled salients of our virtues in a still-dangerous world.
Regardless of what you think of Israel as a democracy (or what you think of the human rights records of the Muslim countries surrounding them), we do not support Israel because they elect their government. The U.S. supports them because of the millions of evangelical Christians who support Israel for religious reasons. That nation is the focus of their beliefs concerning the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus, and so the U.S. must make sure it survives. According to Timothy Weber, professor of church history and dean at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary:
The close tie between evangelicals and Israel is important: It has shaped popular opinion in America and, to some extent, U.S. foreign policy. To understand how it developed, one must know something about how many evangelicals interpret Bible prophecy and what difference their beliefs have made in the world of politics.
Why do evangelicals care so much about Israel? How did this special relationship develop? What has it produced? On the most basic level, evangelicals love Israel because of the Bible. Many evangelicals have vivid memories of sitting in Sunday school rooms, staring at maps of Bible Lands and listening to Bible stories week after week. Through such experiences, evangelicals came to view the Bible’s story as their own and the land of the Bible as a kind of home away from home. Israel is where the Lord Jesus was born, ministered, was crucified, and rose again. Every year thousands of evangelicals take what amounts to a religious pilgrimage to Israel to “walk where Jesus walked” and see for themselves places they have read about their whole lives.
… But there is much more to the evangelical-Israel connection: Most of those who gathered in Washington to show their support for Israel believe that the Holy Land will be ground zero for events surrounding the second coming of Jesus Christ. Such evangelicals read the Bible as though it were a huge jigsaw puzzle of prophecies, with Israel in the center. They believe that human history is following a predetermined divine script, and they and Israel are simply playing their assigned roles.
Through a series of covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, God made Israel his chosen people and promised to establish Messiah on David’s throne forever. In Daniel 7-9, nineeenth-century dispensationalists believed, God spelled out the divine plan: because of its sin, Israel will be subjugated by four successive Gentile powers until, finally, the “times of the Gentiles” are complete. On divine cue, one of the Gentile rulers will issue a decree to rebuild Jerusalem’s fallen walls. Sixty-nine weeks later, Messiah will come to the Holy City but be rejected (“cut off”) by his own people. During the Seventieth Week, an evil ruler will try to destroy the Jews, but at week’s end Messiah will return to defeat him and re-establish David’s throne.
… The more this relationship developed, the more blatantly political evangelical support for Israel became. Hal Lindsey is a perfect case in point. In 1970 he published what became the best-selling book of the decade, The Late Great Planet Earth, which introduced dispensationalism to the widest audience ever. Lindsey jazzed up the standard dispensational scenario by showing its connection to current events. The Antichrist’s revived Roman Empire was the European Common Market. The northern confederacy was the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. The southern confederacy was an Arab-African coalition headed by Egypt. The kings of the east were the Chinese Communists. He translated “fire and brimstone” into nuclear explosions and showed the chaos of the sixties as signs of the times. He predicted that before Antichrist is revealed and end-times events accelerate, the United States will decline into a second-rate power, done in by materialism, immorality, addiction to drugs, and false religion–or possibly destroyed by a surprise nuclear attack.
Note the echo of my opening quote from Falwell and Robertson in Lindsey’s last sentence underlined (by me) above. Hal Lindsey is not the only true believer:
“… for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.” — L. Nelson Bell, Billy Graham’s father-in-law and editor of Christianity Today after Israel captured Jerusalem 1967.
“The time has come for evangelical Christians to affirm their belief in biblical prophecy and Israel’s divine right to the land.” — full page ad in major newspapers, signed by Kenneth Kantzer ofChristianity Today and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, singer Pat Boone, dispensationalist theologian and Dallas Theological Seminary president John Walvoord, and others.
A promise to “mobilize 70 million conservative Christians for Israel and against anti-Semitism” — Jerry Falwell
“America never; never desert Israel” — pledge signed by (among others) Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Brandt Gustavson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (an organization that oversees approximately 90 percent of Christian radio and television broadcasting in North America); and Donald Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
“We feel like the coming of Soviet Jews to Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy” — John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas
“We have no greater friends and allies than the people sitting in this room” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Voices United for Israel Conference in Washington, D.C., in April 1998. Most of the 3,000 in attendance were evangelicals, including Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition, Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries, Jane Hanson of Women’s Aglow, and Brandt Gustavson of the National Religious Broadcasters. (Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson supported the conference but did not attend.)
“I consider it the greatest event, from a prophetic standpoint, that has taken place within the last one hundred years, perhaps even since 70 A.D. [sic], when Jerusalem was destroyed” — Louis Talbot of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles after Israel was admitted to the UN in 1949.
“There are about 200,000 evangelical pastors in America, and we’re asking them all through e-mail, faxes, letters, telephone, to go into their pulpits and use their influence in support of the state of Israel and the prime minister.” — Jerry Falwell
During a January 1998 interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pat Robertsonasked him, “What would you like our audience to do?” He replied, “I think they are already doing it . . . , letters to the editor, communications with representatives . . . to support Israel.”
“Don’t just read about prophecy when you can be part of it!” — Bridges for Peace sales pitch for aid to immigrants to Israel.
“Sometimes I feel like there are more supporters for Israel among evangelicals than among Jews.” — Ira Nosenchuk of Brooklyn, who attended the Voices United for Israel Conference
“I am a Bible scholar and a theologian and from my perspective, the law of God transcends the law of the United States government and the U.S. State Department.” — John Hagee
Of course, an evangelical can make statements like the last one with impunity. Every anti-Semite in the country would go rabid if a comment like that were made by someone of Jewish ancestry instead of by a nice, safe WASP. While I’m the last person to complain when someone says God is more important than the government (I’m usually happy just to see that people notice there is a difference), I think it is hypocritical for these same people to now become uber-patriots and judge the loyalty and patriotism of anyone who opposes mass killings in retaliation for what happened on the 11th. Some people will not be satisfied until we build two 110 story towers with the skulls of Arab children. Personally, I think the people directlyresponsible for the murders of thousands should be fed into a chipper-shredder. Feet first. Slowly. There is a huge difference between saying the actions of the U.S. government brought on these attacks, and saying the innocent civilians killed Tuesday deserved it.
Like all other government programs, the attempt to move up the date of the Second Coming has failed; the thousands that were taken in the “blink of an eye” this week are the closest the Feds will come to providing a Rapture. These terrorist attacks were ultimately brought on by evangelical attempts to drag Jesus Christ kicking and screaming back to Earth by sheer government power, on their timetable instead of His.
If that’s not government overreach, I don’t know what is.
For more information, see:
Wagner, Donald: Evangelicals and Israel: Theological Roots of a Political Alliance
The Christian Century, November 4, 1998, pp. 1020-1026.
Donald Wagner is director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago and director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.
Weber, Timothy: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend
Christianity Today, October 5, 1998 Vol. 42, No. 11, Page 38
Timothy Weber is professor of church history and dean at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois.
September 15, 2001